01 March 2009

Nationalized Health Care

I've long been convinced, mostly on an anecdotal basis, that the US needs nationalized health coverage. All three people in my immediate family live with chronic illness. The copay for the doctor's office is $10. Each prescription is a dollar a day.

Not so bad, right? Now multiply that by two doctor's visits a month and calculate that between the three of us, we take a minimum of seven medications a day. That's a baseline of $2795, before emergency room visits ($50 copay each time) plus extra medications every time someone gets sicker. For far too many weeks of the year, someone in the family is taking an additional two or three or four medications a day.

Then there's the time and energy spent arguing with the doctors' office and the insurance company. Right now, we're in collection over a visit to the ER last winter. I went in with an asthma attack around 10:30 p.m. By the time I saw the doctor, it was after midnight. So the ER bill is dated Feb. 24, and the doctor's bill is dated Feb. 25.

The insurance company is refusing to pay because of the "discrepancy" between the two bills, and the doctor, reasonably enough, wants to get paid. The way the system is set up, he comes after us, not the insurance company, and we get caught in the middle.

The Mate has been dealing with all of this, ad nauseam. He is a saint in other ways, too.

Then recently I ran into a friend whose son had health problems last year. They're still working on paying off the medical bills: their health plan requires a $500 copay for a hospital stay -- on top of $100 for a visit to the emergency room -- and her son was admitted to the hospital several times as the doctors tried to sort out the illness.

Don't like anecdotes? Think these are isolated incidents? Go check out Nicholas Kristof's column in the New York Times today on the bigger picture.

President Obama is working to expand access to health care. The insurance companies and the pharmaceuticals industry, who make a lot of money based on our current broken system, are going to hit back hard, just like they did when Hillary Clinton tried to nationalize health care almost two decades back.

Make sure your elected officials know that your tax money, as well as what you pay for your own health insurance, needs to go to health care, not into the pockets of insurance company executives. If you don't know who they are, find your senators here and your representatives here. Send an email, make a phone call, or write a letter.

Thank you.